Breaking down the opponent: Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings may be the lone unbeaten team remaining in the NFL after the six weeks, but they have flaws the Philadelphia Eagles can expose heading into
The Minnesota Vikings may be the lone unbeaten team remaining in the NFL after the six weeks, but they have flaws the Philadelphia Eagles can expose heading into Sunday's matchup.
All those flaws are on the offensive side of the ball, starting with the running game.
The Philadelphia Eagles will look to rebound from a two-game losing streak as the undefeated Vikings come to town. Make sure you’re in the loop. --take five seconds to sign up for our FREE Eagles newsletter now!
The Vikings average just 70.6 rush yards per game, which is dead last in the NFL. McKinnon has 57 carries for 174 yards and one touchdown, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. Asiata isn't any better, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry (36 carries for 103 yards).
Philadelphia is due for a bounce-back week against Minnesota's rushing attack after allowing a season-high 230 yards in a loss to Washington. If the Eagles can stop the run, that will elevate the pressure on quarterback Sam Bradford, who has excelled in the first five games of the year.
Bradford has completed 70.4 percent of the passes for 990 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions for a 109.7 passer rating. He has performed exceptionally well under pressure, going 26-for-40 for 263 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 108.6 passer rating.
A quick release has been the key to Bradford's early-season success, finding top targets Stefon Diggs (25 catches, 372 yards, touchdown) and Kyle Rudolph (21 catches, 236 yards, three touchdowns). Both Diggs and Rudolph are the security blankets for Bradford, although Diggs is still hampered by a groin injury that could sideline him for Sunday.
The Vikings offensive line is ranked 31st in the NFL in pass protection, another opportunity for the Eagles pass rush (zero sacks last week) to have a bounce-back week. Philadelphia has 14 sacks through five games this season, but Minnesota quarterbacks have been sacked just eight times.
While the Vikings weaknesses are glaring, their defense more than makes up for it. Minnesota's strength is on the defensive line, one that currently employs Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison (each have 4.0 sacks on the season) along with Linval Joseph (3.0 sacks) and Tom Johnson (2.0 sacks).
The Vikings will try to get Griffen on Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who allowed 2.5 sacks last week in his first career start. The Eagles will need to double team Griffen, Minnesota's best past rusher. With the Vikings defensive line pressuring Carson Wentz, the secondary will be ready to pounce.
Xavier Rhodes is becoming one of the game's top cornerbacks, while 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes is a budding star. The pair have a combined six pass deflections and three interceptions this season.
Backing up Rhodes and Waynes are safeties Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo, who have combined for 68 tackles, an interception, sack and three fumble recoveries. Both find ways to get to the football.
The Vikings linebackers are led by Eric Kendricks in the middle, who has 36 tackles, six pass deflections and an interception on the season. Philadelphia will have to avoid Kendricks across the middle of the field and target outside linebackers Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr, who have struggled in pass coverage this season.
Minnesota allows just 287.6 yards per game (209.8 pass, 77.8 rush), bolstering one of the NFL's top defensive units. The Vikings also have a plus-11 turnover margin (12 takeaways, one giveaway). Simply put, they don't make mistakes.
For the Eagles to pull off the upset, the pass rush has to get to Bradford and create a short field by forcing a turnover or two. The Vikings will have trouble scoring points on offense, so protecting the football is imperative...along with protecting Wentz.
The Vikings have weaknesses the Eagles can capitalize on. Whether Philadelphia can execute them will determine the outcome of the football game.
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